Image Source: India's Blind Cricket Team (CABI), Twitter
Cricket is a religion in India. The game is followed ardently by the public and widely covered by the media. Yet, there is a relatively unknown branch of cricket in India – the blind cricket team in India. The efforts of a Bangalore based organisation, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled is largely the reason why blind cricket has survived to tell its tale. “The Indian team, unfortunately, is the only blind cricket team in the world which is not affiliated with its national cricket board. A direct recognition from the ministry and fans will make a huge difference to the team players,” says Mr Mahantesh founder of Samarthanam. The Indian blind cricket team doesn’t come under BCCI’s ambit and the team is sponsored by the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), the sporting wing of Samarthanam.
The Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi proudly spoke about the team on his radio programme, Mann Ki Baat after meeting them in 2014, “Met the Indian team that won the Blind Cricket World Cup. I saw their enthusiasm and even I got energy after meeting them.” The team recently won a lot of praises after winning the T20 Asia Cup, defeating Pakistan in Kochi, but the accolades, unfortunately, have not translated into better conditions for the team.
Lack of funds is the biggest hurdle for the team
The Indian blind cricket team are seeking support from all quarters for their expenses for participation in the 2016 World cup that is scheduled to be played in India this year. The cricket team needs funds to properly build the team this year for the World Cup. Coaching fee, cricket gears, kits, selection trials are some of the expenses the team requires to cover to ensure future victories.
Over the past few years, the CABI has done its best to ensure that the Indian blind cricket team gets all the help to compete at the international level. Despite their support, however, it becomes difficult for the players to play the game optimally.
In fact, the team struggled to get the kits, uniforms, and travel fares for their trip to participate in their events. In fact, many players are known to have raised money with help from friends and family to buy jerseys and kits for their previous tournaments.
Team players deprived of job and recognition
Despite doing the nation proud by winning the Blind Cricket World Cup last year and the Asia cup this year, blind cricketers team in India struggle for a better life. One such cricketer is Ketan Patel, who has been a crucial player for the team’s success. One of the top performers of the team, the 29-year-old all-rounder hasn’t been able to find a job that will secure his future, in spite of making several pleas to the government.
“Our success comes after sincere effort and hard work. Yes, I celebrate our success, but I have to worry about other aspects of life,” Patel informed in an interview to Mid-Day. He has had no option but to turn to farming on his family rice field in a village 25 km away from Valsad in Gujarat. With his 60-year-old father, being blind as well, Patel has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. “I don’t have any hopes for a job now, simply because I have been trying for so many years. I was hopeful of one after our World Cup triumph, but no one helped me,” he added.
Passion and pride to represent the country!
Despite overwhelming odds and lack of funds, the blind cricketers themselves, who primarily come from India’s hinterlands, have the utmost passion for the game and pride in representing the country. “We play to gain confidence; we play to prove that a blind person can do anything. Playing cricket gives us that extra motivation and energy,” confides the former captain Shekhar Naik.
The Indian blind cricket team wants to lift the world cup!
The Indian blind cricket team have dared to dream of the World Cup – in fact, they have lifted the cup in 2012 and 2014. They dream they can lift the World Cup this year too, on their home ground. Their hope lies in the recognition and support from the government and Indian cricket fans. As the secretary of Cricket Association For The Blind (CABI), Mr. Mahantesh puts it, “The team players have to work hard for funds every year. We hope this year we can change that with cricket fans and the government encouraging us.”
We hope the team gets the recognition and support they deserve.